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Tips & Tricks

What Should Photographers Do About Other Vendors Taking Pictures During a Wedding?

By Brandon Perron on September 9th 2015

Disclaimer: The following article is an opinion piece by the author. The opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SLR Lounge as a whole.

For as long as I have been shooting, I have always had to contend with “Uncle Bobs” on the wedding day. I have seen it progress from only them to them and 90% of the guests taking photos with their phones. For me, it has never been a big deal, as they rarely affect me doing my job. My belief has always been, if you do not feel you can compete with cell phones and someone who has a nice camera, maybe you shouldn’t be charging money for your services quite yet.

These situations are what we have to deal with as wedding photographers unless you want to beg the couple to have an “unplugged” or “photo free” wedding. Now there is a new “trend” emerging in the industry where vendors are bringing their own cameras, shooting images of the couple and the day, then giving those images to the couple. An extreme case can be found in this recent PetaPixel article which details a recent encounter a wedding photographer had with the DJ who took photos of the entire wedding day and posted all 230 images on Facebook. The incident even had its own hashtag, #Weddingphotogate.

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Whose Side Are You On?

While I am sure most of you are going to assume that I completely side with the argument that it shouldn’t be allowed, I am not. In this digital age, I think it is almost impossible to stop other people photographing the wedding, whether it is with a cell phone or a DSLR. I can understand that a wedding vendor may be trying to offer couples something more than the next to stay competitive. We all do it for our businesses. We want to sell ourselves and our work and many times, we are making sure we offer more “stuff” for the couple, to show our value. Other vendors are no different; they want to set themselves apart from the crowd. When you put your photography bias aside, can you really blame them? I do agree that it shouldn’t happen, and frankly a wedding vendor should know better, but at the end of the day, it is what it is.

Regardless if you agree that it should or shouldn’t be allowed, we still have to face reality and understand that it is happening and how we might be able to contend with some commonalities that may arise from it. This article assumes that no vendor will be charging for the images they take or have underlying motives (if they are or do, that is a completely different conversation and an entire article on its own).

Can We Really Stop Them?

Can we really stop other vendors from taking pictures at our weddings and delivering the images to the couple? People point to the exclusivity clause in our contract, but that is something the couple signed, NOT the other vendors. I am not a lawyer, but I am guessing that they cannot be signing on behalf of the other vendors, and we cannot expect the vendors to follow that clause. Sure, we can refuse to shoot for the rest of the day if a vendor breaks the clause, but how is that really going to look to the couple and the guests? My guess is that it will look like a tantrum thrown by a whiny, high maintenance photographer because a nice vendor wanted to offer some additional images to the couple for free.

Also, most exclusivity clauses have the words “paid” and “professional photographer” in them, so if a vendor shows up with an entry to mid-level DSLR and/or is offering the images for free, they could very well not be included in that clause as they do not appear to be professional, and they are not charging for that service. You can see how this gets sticky really quickly, all amidst the wedding festivities.

How Do You Prevent it From Happening?

1. Go Over the Contract With Your Couple

When it comes to this situation, I would say prevention is the best approach; this starts with the couple at the time they are signing your contract. I always go over each section of the contract with the couple, because I understand that most people just sign stuff without looking at multiple pages of solid text. They signed, so they have to abide by it, but it is still an awkward conversation, if something comes up and the couple was “unaware” of it; they usually feel like you should have explained it to them, regardless if it was in the contract.

2. The Exclusivity Clause

I would make sure that you have an exclusivity clause in place, and it is part of the conversation when signing the contract. I also put wording in my contract that if something arises in regards to this issue, it is the couple’s responsibility to deal with the situation. Many may feel that is wrong and that the couple shouldn’t be bothered on their wedding day, but they are the ones who are either paying the vendors or know the guests personally. Those people are much more likely to listen to the couple, than the biased “demanding” photographer. So, please have that conversation, explain this new trend to them, and stress the importance of it not happening at all. Encourage them to talk with their other vendors before the wedding day happens.

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What If They Do Show Up, Do We Let Them Shoot? What If They Get In Our Way?

If you’re photographing a wedding, and another vendor begins shooting their own images, should you let them continue shooting? That is on you and whether you want to try and put the kibosh on it. Personally, my belief is let them shoot (within good reason and good taste). If you really think about, most vendors are not there for the entire day and usually only for different portions of the evening. This means they are not capturing the day in its entirety, just pieces of it.

I think in most cases, I won’t ever have an issue contending with a vendor shooting at the same time as me. If a vendor does show up and gets in my way, we now have an issue. I do have a clause that talks about me and my job being limited by interferences. Those can be pretty much anything: unruly guests, guests with cameras, limitations of the venue, limitations of the pastor, vendors, etc. Again, couples know it is their responsibility in how they want to handle it when I bring the situation to their attention. They understand that issues like this not being handled could very well lead to their photos not being the best they can be. Again, this needs to be discussed during the signing of the contract.

What if the Vendor Posts Images Before You Do?

If this happens, you might want to look at your workflow and how you can improve the speed of delivery. As I have stated in the past, I can cull a wedding, proof it and get it ready for uploaded in a few hours. You should be able to do the same. Also, you do not have to post all the proofs from the wedding day on Facebook. It’s just messy. Find your favorite 25-45, edit them, upload them and let everyone know that the couple will be sending the link to the rest of them in the coming days.

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What If The Guests Get Confused That The Vendor is the Photographer? Or That His Photos are Mine?

Most people will be able to tell the photographer’s photos from a vendors photos fairly easily. Your quality of work should be miles ahead of theirs and if it isn’t, I default to my original statement that maybe you shouldn’t be charging for your services quite yet.

Also, you will have more from the day (getting ready, flowers, first look, ceremony, etc.). I do believe that people can tell when it is the vendor posting images vs. the photographer. You will both be posting from your respective wedding business pages, which more than likely has what you do in the title of it. The other key difference between you and the vendor is you have the gallery of ALL the images, the vendor will not. Which means that the couple will be sending everyone at the wedding a link to your gallery for ordering, so at some point people will get the clue who the photographer is.

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Conclusion

If a vendor shows up and starts photographing the wedding, I say, let it happen but within reason. Obviously, it is up to you on how you handle this situation and whether you “allow” it. I think the biggest piece of the puzzle is having that conversation with the couple at the signing of the contract, set expectations up front, and if the issues does arise how it will be handled. My guess is this will become more and more common. That means we just need to get better and better at what we do in order to deal with these situations, so that no matter who is taking photos at weddings, everyone knows who the professional (and hired) photographer actually is.

What do you think? Comment below.

Brandon Perron is a wedding photographer, making a transition into a freelance automotive digital contributor/photographer, as well as setting up his own private gallery. In his words, he is an uber sarcastic gasoline loving gear head, lost amongst the hipster hyper Eco-friendly crowd of PDX and has a mouth that makes sailors blush. He likes to think of himself as a daily life commentator, where nothing is off limits to poke fun at.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Nashaine Johnson

    Pardon me because I am by no means a pro and I am just here to learn. I think the ‘ I can be the only one to take you photos’ mentality is ridiculous. The same goes for across for various events like Olympics where NBC holds the American broadcasting rights to the Summer Olympic Games. Their broadcast outright sucks. They show few events and only focused on ones with Americans in it or only on the American athletes.

    In other cases I have traveled to sports events which try to prohibit photography and videos because someone else owns the broadcasting rights. Yet they fail to provide the wider viewing public any info or ways to view the event either because it is not in the region or that company only provides to a limited area.

    It is annoying and can be biased.

    I am glad that everyone now has a smartphone or else I would miss so much.

    For my wedding we hired a guy that said that if anyone gets in his shots then he cant be blamed. That’s fine. I also got pics from almost everyone who took photos at my wedding which include phones, etc and I love em all. There are so many different perspectives. And we got those from the pro which were well done because that was why he was hired.

    Sometimes I think photographers and videographers go overboard with this thing

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  2. Steinar Knai

    Should not be an issue. Talk with the couple about exclusive rights to sell photos after the wedding, if that is part of your contract. If not, why would you care? But also remind those who may be standing in front of you at the critical moments that you work for the B&G and you would like to give them the best shots possible. End of story.

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  3. Lisa Churchward

    I got married a few months ago, and gave my dslr camera to my sister for the day, who I would consider a better photographer than myself. The one thing that my professional photographer asked was that when he was doing the traditional family and wedding party photos, is that we look at him and not others that may be standing next to him, which is exactly what happened. The rest of the day was photographed documentary style, so his photos were completely different from anything taken on my camera, as well as the quality of his being far superior to my sister’s. Even if they had been photographing in similar styles I would expect my photographer’s to be the ones that would stand out over any others.
    This is the view I took to a friend’s wedding last weekend when I took my camera as a guest and as you call “vendor”. I really enjoyed the photos from my day that were posed for and maybe not so well executed as the professional ones but were much better quality than from a mobile phone. That was my intention for their day, and at no point did I even attempt to take a shot from the view of the professional, in fact quite the opposite. He/she can only be in one place at a time and the day goes so fast, as a bride and groom you are whisked from one formality to the next – cake cutting, first dance, throwing of confetti etc.. there is so much you don’t see. I hope they enjoy my photos but wouldn’t expect them to go any further than their Facebook page, whereas my professional wedding photos will be framed and put in an album and treasured in a totally different way. Anyone that tries to out-do or step on the professional photographer’s toes should be spoken to, you’re paying them to photograph one of the best days of your life, let them do their job without interference!

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    • Barry Chapman

      Your reply makes it seem as if you don’t understand how the term “vendor” is being used here. A vendor at a wedding is someone who’s providing a service, such as a photographer, videographer, DJ, florist, caterer, celebrant, wedding coordinator, hair stylist, makeup artist, dress designer, venue owner, party equipment (eg, marquees, tables, chairs) supplier, etc. If you were attending a friend’s wedding as a guest it’s unlikely you were a vendor.

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  4. Dave Haynie

    Another one from my video days… I was doing a paid video gig at a really cool but challenging church in Pennsylvania. I got in extra early to scope it out, more of what I’d do on a photo shoot because I was really too early and took a stroll around the grounds. I set up on one side, the photographer set up on the other, both of us restricted by the Catholics to the back of the church — no close-ups during the ceremony.

    Back in those days, I took my Canon Pro90IS P&S, a 2.6Mpixel camera, nothing special but the first I had with IS, to shoot assets. I always did DVDs, later BDs, for my videos, but all of the graphics were original, nothing from canned wedding artwork discs. So I had the happy couple to myself for a little while, and got them around to the back of the church with had some nice scenery. Took a couple of shots of them, and one was actually a damn fine shot — which it had been shot with a better camera, but it really didn’t matter for video — this was back in the SD days. I used that shot as the cover photo.

    They were really happy with the video… but that photo. That was actually their favorite couples photo from the wedding… ouch! Ok, as I said, I liked it, but I absolutely wasn’t there to shoot stills, and didn’t feel right even asking for money for anything shot on that. I sent a couple of 8x10s… gratis. These days, I would have just sent a TIFF… of course, these days, I would have been shooting video mostly on still cameras anyway, so the stills themselves would have been on good gear.

    Of course, when I think about getting too high-horse about gear vs. gear, that’s a good thing to think about… all they understood was that they liked that shot. Obviously I did, too, but once they asked, for me it was all about how much better I couldn’t make it, versus a DSLR shot, not what maybe I should have been thinking about — at the end of the day, it’s art. And I had achieved the goal of art — moving, inspiring, pleasing — in that shot, hell with the technical specs.

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  5. Peter McWade

    I took photos at my Sons wedding. I totally stayed out of the way of the Photographer and just did my own either before or after. Much of mine was pretty lousy but I did capture a few good shots. I used no flash. My camera was pretty lousy in low light. Mostly just a happy dad getting some family photos for the future. I fully respect the paid photographer and their crew. Vendors taking photos? Mmmmmm. Seems like most vendors would be other professionals and not family. So no photos. Family and guests as long as respect is present should be fine.

    Pete :)

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  6. Dave Haynie

    That’s not the only way it can happen, either. I was shooting video for a wedding some years ago. I met and spoke with the happy couple’s hired, professional photographer, and especially in those days, the videographer pretty much always gave deference to the still photographer — I always shot the wedding more or less documentary style, so a momentary appearance by the photographer wasn’t unwelcome.

    But then it got weird. A bunch of guests showed up with professional gear. One was father-of-the-bride, another an Uncle Bob, and I figured they’d be busy enough to put the camera away most of the time — and of course, I’m just concerned about who’s going to be in my way, not any sort of direct competition at that point. But two others, a husband and wife, were apparently pros who decided to take a busman’s holiday and shoot the whole wedding. I have no idea what they said to the paid pro or the happy couple, but it did get a little crazy trying to shoot around three working pros.

    But at least that before we had to deal with shooting around guests who confuse an iPad for a camera…

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  7. Duy-Khang Hoang

    The article appears to be in response to #weddingphotogate however it misses a few crucial details which explain why that particular incident stands out from the typical uncle bob or random vendor photo. But first, lets address one of the points made in the article, that people won’t be confused between the hired photographers photos and a random vendors photos. You assume that the guests are aware of who the couple hired, how many vendors were hired, how many people work on their teams etc. It’s probably safest to assume that if people are carrying professional equipment, and operating in a professional capacity, that the guests will just assume they are the hired photographer (or part of their team). Secondly, the main beef with the #weddingphotogate saga was posting photos on facebook using a business account that was not affiliated with the wedding and then tagging the hired photographer in an attempt to add legitimacy. Photography as any art is subjective, the photos were panned by quite a few posters, regardless, the larger matter persists – that this person has potentially misled guests (and other facebook followers that can view the DJ’s photo feeds) of the quality of work that the hired photographer is capable of. If you think people won’t be mislead, you should think again. There were enough people commenting on the #weddingphotogate article whom failed to read the article in it’s entirety yet immediately jumped to the defense of the DJ (as a proxy for uncle bob’s right to take photos during a wedding I’d imagine). I would wager the typical attention given to a facebook news feed item would be significantly less scrutinised than that of an article which you have to click on to read in full. People are likely to just see photos in their feed, recognise the event and proceed to view the album (liking and commenting as they go along). There might be a few guests who are more clued into photography which may notice that the photos are not from the hired photographer. The third issue which has not been addressed in this article pertains to privacy. Weddings are typically private events where guests are formally invited. If the couple choose to, they can even request the hired photographer refrain from posting photos on facebook/blog etc. We have someone not hired to photograph this private event deciding to use this opportunity to market their business by publicly sharing photos online to anyone who likes their photography related business page. This third issue is between the DJ and the couple, but highlights the disregard the DJ has for others rights as long as his actions serve his own selfish agenda. To those defending his actions, how many of you would be happy to have your details shared with marketing agencies without your consent (whether implicit or through fine print in a contract)? How many of you would gladly welcome cold calls during dinner selling? The double standards are quite obvious yet so many people are so hung up on what they want they don’t even take a millisecond to consider the impact their actions may have.

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    • Steve VanSickle

      Agreed. While the core content of this article is sound, the case PetaPixel wrote about is a special one. That DJ deliberately set out to poach the wedding photographer’s potential leads. I’m confident that the DJ never claimed to be the official photographer, but I’m just as certain that they never corrected anyone that may have thought he was. I think the DJ was extremely unethical in this case.

      I actually looked through several of his other galleries, and he’s not bad, but good lord, I think he shoots in burst mode and posts EVERYTHING. So many shots have 4-6 nearly identical shots after it, most of them with no corrections whatsoever, or hyper-saturation with no white balance correction, yeesh.

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    • Eric Sharpe

      Yeah, not to mention that the DJ also operates a photography company. So, when people say, “if you’re being out shot by the DJ then…”, well, the DJ is a photographer. And if he was good enough, then he should have been hired to shoot the wedding.

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  8. Eric Mazzone

    All I want to say is, these are some amazing images!

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  9. Max C

    You certainly cannot stop a hundred people with their cell phones..lol For other Vendors, you can ask them politely to not interfere while you are taking a photo but they can take photos otherwise. I was hired to shoot a wedding as a videographer and the DJ came with his own photographer. The DJ photographer kept walking in-front of my camera. He seemed to be oblivious that I was standing there shooting with my camera and tripod. Maybe I was invisible that day..lol The good part is that he didn’t do it during the important moments or I would have to tell him to something. Ultimately, I think all vendors have a right to take pictures or video in a limited capacity, once they don’t actively interfere with the job of the hired Photographer or Videographer.

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  10. norman tesch

    as the photographer you have a contract with a cost. if you get what you asked for then you should be happy. now if you are being out shot by the dj or the lady delivering the flowers then mabee you need a new hobby/ buisness. you are there to deliver photos only an artist/ photographer can deliver. people get so wrapped up in others shooting and not in the fact that they probably not be shooting there in the first place. if you are not that person mabee you are that person that just bought your camera last week in that case take it back to best buy while you can and get refund or mabee some store credit. and if you really wanna cry, are you gonna take every ones cell phone away from them so they dont out shoot you also?

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    • Dustin Baugh

      Yeah your pictures should be able to trump anything made by guests or vendors. If the vendors are getting better pics, tell them they should be a photographer, not a DJ.

      If the vendors keep getting in your way I wouldn’t tell them to stop; only that as the paid photographer you need to keep the shots clean and ask them to work with you instead of making it a war on the brides wedding. Try to negotiate with them to stay back and become a 2nd photographer type position. Then they’re helping you by getting angles you couldn’t get at the time. The couple will be happier. And you get better word of mouth.

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  11. robert garfinkle

    Forgive me for my naivety – in lack of business ethics and other matters; but I might come off harsh, and excuse me for that, I’m an “outsider” in all respects.

    If I contract with a photographer, for an event, for dollars – it should be pretty straight forward that he / she / they take pictures for me, with an expectation of service up to and including delivery of photos… And I would think that no other conditions, like exclusivity, should apply, at all…

    Meaning – whether or not “others” take photos or what they do with them after the fact, is the sole business between “them” and myself.

    I would say, to the extent in which it becomes a hindrance, where the photographer cannot perform effectively, that maybe others who might “get in the way” I can see that being a case / condition, yet cannot come to any reason why a photographer would ever splash a contract with exclusivity. why?

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    • Barry Chapman

      In an extreme example, I’d suggest that an exclusivity clause could prevent a couple from hiring a second photographer who they think may provide them and their family with a cheaper album or prints, since they’re a large part of the income photographers often seek to gain from shooting a wedding.

      Similarly, if a (non-photographer) vendor is shooting enough of the wedding and producing reasonably high quality images, the couple may be tempted to go to them for a significant portion of their print needs.

      And finally, a lot of photographer’s recommendations come from vendors. In order to establish a good relationship the photographers provide them with free, high quality images they can use to promote their work. A vendor who takes it on him/herself to take a lot of photos at the wedding may hamper those efforts, as well as potentially getting in the way of the photographer when he/she’s trying to do their job. An example is a reception venue photo, for which a photographer may have to seek the caterer’s cooperation to get a few brief moments between the tables being set and the doors being opened. If another vendor’s trying to get the same shots it could make it more difficult.

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    • Stephen Jennings

      For the most part I agree with you. If my client’s caterer takes photos of the entire wedding, honestly, that’s between my client and their caterer who apparently had a lot of time on their hands (seriously, the dj at my wedding or the weddings I’ve shot wouldn’t have time to take so many photos, so what was he doing?).

      And really, if a dj or whatever takes better photos than me from a booth .. I have issues beyond an annoying vendor.

      I think sometimes photographers seem to think it’s their wedding, and forget it’s not .. it’s the bride and grooms.

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    • Paul Empson

      You can’t force creativity… but having someone continually getting in your way, distracting the couple: ‘smile’,’look this way’, ‘over here..’ most certainly can ruin the relaxed happy atmosphere you create to help get the best most natural real photos that the couple have hired me for..

      They, the couple, may not realise the detrimental effect having a complete tool of a vendor is having of their photos… I’d mention it to the couple and it is up to them if they ask for the idiot to leave us alone..

      I remember two occasions.. one an over keen uncle-bob, stand behind me and snap away: fine.. say nothing.. however he was leaving spare bits of kit in plain site in backgrounds.. I saw this and asked who’s it was.. his wife realised he was getting in the way and dragged him inside..

      another wedding a friend of the B&G who was a photographer, full or part-time I don’t remember was, for the most part excellent.. however during the dance photos he was very much in the background of, a few, of my shots.. that was the couples misfortune..

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  12. Timothy Going

    Also, I would think someone like a DJ would only be able to offer a very limited set of photos, i.e., only party shots from their booth. To me, those shots aren’t threatening to my business at all.

    Now the question is what was in the 286 photos? If its 286 shots from the DJ booth, then who really looked through them all?

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    • Timothy Going

      Wowza, I just read the whole article on Petapixel and now my perspective is a bit changed. If another vendor is photographing the ENTIRE wedding, essentially shooting over my shoulder, then yeah I could see that being a problem.

      Still, is it worth fighting over? I think in the long run it would just hurt you more than help you. It’s unneeded drama for the couple and you know that the vendor will be badmouthing you to all their contacts.

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    • Steve VanSickle

      Yeah, the specific incident on PetaPixel was a different beast than a vendor just shooting from their booth. I think the DJ was extremely unethical (like posting the photos from their photography business page, not the DJ page), but I may have also let it slide, and just made a mental note of how to prep the bride and groom for future weddings.

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  13. Timothy Going

    I would think this wouldn’t be a big problem as long as your providing better photographers than the vendors.

    Personally, I offer photos of their services to the vendors. Free shots to the baker and caterer, some party shots for the DJ or band. I mention to the other vendors during the wedding that I’ll provide them some images for their website or portfolio. A little networking can go a long way.

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  14. Paul Empson

    Not had this over here in the UK yet.. and I agree it should not happen. A professional vendor should realise I’m not taking photos for me, I’m taking them for the couple…

    As for guests photographing, not a problem… so long as they don’t stand in front of me at key moments, if they do I remind them these are not my photos.. they are the couples photos.. and the penny generally drops, they apologise and step aside.

    I often encourage people to take photos as they know the couple better than I do and will generate natural relaxed happy smiles and laughter that I can capture in a 2nd shooter style.. which I prefer.

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